Nourishing the next generation

I ate everything as a child. But that was more of a curse than a blessing. I’ll never know where the insatiable appetite came from. I was greedy. Always had room for seconds, thirds, sometimes fourths. I once stole a packet of Spar burger bites from the coat pocket of a younger kid at school. My weight in stones matched my age in years until about 15 when it started to level off a bit – despite buying more than the boys at the break time tuck shop.

Aged 7 (right)

Photo 12-10-2014 15 43 59

Aged 17 I thought I should lose a little bit of weight. I joined a slimming club and dropped 32 kg (that’s five stone in old money) in six months. That wasn’t particularly good news either. Nothing could have prepared me for becoming that thin(ner) person that every single person commented on, wherever I went. I temporarily felt like a bit of a celebrity which is cool, at that age, until you’re shaking in your parents’ pantry two thirds of the way through a box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers and petrified the paparazzi is watching.

I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia for as long I can remember. I do this weird thing of sucking my cheeks in every time I look in the mirror (and I never noticed this until a subtle as a sledge hammer Danish flatmate called me out on it in 2003). As a kid, I began to tilt my head back for every photo such was the paranoia developing around my double chin. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I actually look like. I wish I knew.

But what I do know is I travel along the most wonderful path to recovery every single day. I’ve reached a point I never thought possible. I’ve had my cake and eaten it so many times this past year in particular and I’ve enjoyed and felt in control of every single mouthful. But I’m still scared, really scared.

I hope we’ll start a family one day and I never, ever want our kids to go through what I did. I want them to live their happiest, healthiest life possible, with good food at the heart of it. I want them to be able to make choices for themselves, I don’t want them to torture themselves with good and / or bad and more than anything I can’t wait to sit down, with them, the next generation, enjoying many a nourishing meal together.

Are you a parent? How do you support your kids to have a healthy (for both the body and mind) relationship with food?

**Ocado is asking kids what they want. They’re looking for junior food critics to form a tasting panel and share their thoughts on likes and dislikes. You can read more here. This isn’t a sponsored post. It’s my commitment and keenness to nourish the next generation and hopefully learn from all those already wonderful parents out there. Thanks for taking the time to help. All comments are very gratefully received.**

23 thoughts on “Nourishing the next generation

  1. It’s so hard – I try to show and explain that a balance diet and exercise is the way to go….but I am guilty of moaning about ‘feeling fat’ in front of them….which I get annoyed at myself for.

    • Fat days are brutal at the best of times, I can only begin to imagine how that much tougher they are to deal with when you’re trying to set an example to little ones and not seem preoccupied by it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it really is appreciated.

  2. Oh gosh Ruth, I had no idea you’d been through all this. I think it’s so important for kids to have healthy role models and it’s something I think about a lot. I never talk about weight / size / diets in front of my daughter and would never say anything like ‘you’re greedy’ to her like I’m sure lots of us were when we were kids. We could do so much more to encourage healthier food though – we’re totally guilty of allowing her to eat fish fingers rather than cooking something from scratch. I need to enforce some healthier habits in this house :-/ The Ocado campaign sounds fantastic.

    • Did you know Ottolenghi has a proper fish finger recipe…? It’s worth a Google. I’ve adapted it (as my cupboard stocks are never as plentiful as his!) a couple of times. *whispers* it’ll never compete with the comfort of Birds Eye but it’s a lovely healthier option, that’s for sure. I think Perry Junior would make a superb member of the tasting panel 🙂 Thanks for your loveliness.

  3. It’s hard! I don’t want the girls to get my hang ups. But then I can’t help my attitude towards food and my body. I am just hoping that they understand we all enjoy things in moderation. I wish I know the answer.

  4. Oh Ruth, I’m so sorry you had such a tough time growing up. I struggled through 10 years of eating disorders so know exactly what you mean about not wanting children to go through the same. I try very hard to encourage my children to make healthy choices, but they get plenty of ‘treats’ too as I don’t want food to ever seem like a bad thing. They all do lots of exercise and I try really heard to not be negative about my own or my husband’s weight, instead we talk about being healthy. I can only hope that if my children do ever struggle with food, I spot the signs and help them through. I’m sure it’s not that simple though.

    Lots of love. xx

    • Likewise Emma. I had no idea you too had been plagued by such horridness. I’m all for health and happiness too. It sounds like your active clan are well on their way to a wonderful existence. Lovely to hear from you.

  5. This is such a hard one. It’s so hard to be laid back about food with them. I think baby led weaning helped with me. You can’t get too hung up on how much because it’s impossible to tell (although I knew a very controlling couple who used to weigh the food and then weight the remains from the floor etc. bonkers.) but it does force you to cook a lot from scratch for them.
    My first two were such different eaters. One picky and unwilling to try stuff, one who ate everything. However, now the picky one is five and will try things and eats well, the second is 3 and has suddenly become more cautious. Two things were key for me with my difficult eater. Firstly, serving at the table and making sure there were definitely some things he’d like. Then we just let everyone help themselves and bit our tongues not to push stuff. Secondly, cooking with them. I always hoped that his love if cooking would override his fussiness one day and I believe it has.

    • It’s safe to say you’ve already taught me so much. I’m sorry, but, Mum-donald’s?!?! That’s an institution in its own right. Such a clever and wonderful little kitchen effort. The weighing of the floor-splattered remains does indeed sound very scary. If it ever comes to that, please, poke me with a fork or something! I’m such a huge fan of meals at the table. An invaluable part of our marriage that I only hope continues when we start a family. Lovely to have you round here. Thanks for checking in.

  6. Such a tricky one as even getting them to eat something when they are little can be a challenge in itself, let alone getting them to eat the right stuff. We try and sit down together for meals, and get the girls involved with cooking – homemade pizzas are always a winner. And just trying to get them to understand that a balance is good and that you wouldn’t eat a lot of just one thing.

    Someone once told me that rather than judge a little one on what they’ve eaten that day, look at it over a week. So as long as good stuff features most of the time, a few treats here and there will balance out. Although one of the littlest’s first words was ‘treeeeeat’, I’m not sure it’s worked terribly well!

    I still worry about what will happen as more outside pressures come into force, but I hope the messages will still stay in there somewhere.

    • Homemade pizza night sounds like lots of fun. And I can totally imagine what it must be like as a parent to worry if your child hasn’t eaten anything and then just be desperate for them to have something, irrespective of how nutritious it may or may not be. On my own personal journey too I try and look at entire weeks rather than the minutiae of every meal. Otherwise it all gets a bit much. And afternoon tea at a weekend is more than fine when you take into account the vegetables I’ve eaten every day before that. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, it’s massively appreciated. Can you tell I’m off for scones and cream this weekend…? 🙂

  7. It’s so hard being a parent and trying into install healthy eating habits in to our children and in turn help them be comfortable with their bodies. With three sons I find that their either eating constantly or being extremely picky. My eldest won’t eat fruit and veg and is small for his age. His younger two siblings although also small for their ages eat like horses and burn off calories etc staying in keeping for their build. I also have a two year old daughter who has a great appetite the majority of the times but I am more aware of the way society views bigger girls and find this more of a worry than I do with the boys. But I feel it shouldn’t be the case and would love to find a middle ground that would enable both my sons and daughter to be content with themselves.

    • Even when I was at my (ridiculously) thin(nest) I would worry about being a “big” girl. It really is dreadful how it’s come to that when we look at the statues of history and the rounded bottoms and wide hips of wholesome, fertile women. And they were even willing to stand there with their clothes / toga off! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to check in – especially when it sounds like you more than have your hands full with your lovely, lively and active brood!

  8. such a cracking post Ruth, you know I totally get you and my own journey is not yet come to as positive an outcome as yours, I still have days where over eating seems to be the right choice and control is exerted through food,

    But yes, I do my best with the kids to educate about nutrition, good food choices, and a little bit of what you like won’t hurt.

    And of course I am trying to get them onto dark chocolate….

    • Thank you lovely Jane. I remain determined we’ll both get there with time.

      I have witnessed the education in action just this past twenty four hours… Lovely casual use of the Biona coconut oil jar for the crafting sess…

      You’re getting your kids into dark chocolate?! Are you mad??? Won’t that involve sharing? It’s thoughts like that, that reduce my keenness to conceive.

  9. Bravo! Thanks for sharing this, I think a lot of people have been with you in that pantry to a greater or lesser extent! One day at a time, right? You’ve shown me this isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle and you’re already a great role model. I can’t see how you wouldn’t be to little people in the future. I’ll bet you already are.

    • Those pantry days were dark, dark days. I once ate a Snickers bar in a toilet cubicle. That was horrific. It’s so lovely to be called out as a role model, thank you so much. Aunty Ruth did indeed give her newly weaned niece her first ever taste of avocado back 18 months ago. I think she’s forgiven me… 😉 So getting a little bit of practice there. We did also recently dunk cookies in a cuppa at breakfast time together. Whoops!

  10. I think parents need to set a good example too. I’ve seen some parents try and feed their kids stuff that the parents would never eat themselves. I saw a 6 year old get quite clever once and say something like – mum you hate carrots, why do you make me eat them. x

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